We hear the word repent during Advent, but I wonder if we have a misplaced understanding of the word. In Aramaic, the language of John the Baptist as well as Jesus and his followers, the foundation of the word means to change. To change ones mind, especially about past conduct. It seems unfortunate that the translation to Latin, repere, which is translated as to creep, or slink, has become the norm for how we think about repentance.
What would happen if we were to become more conscious of the idea of change and less of the idea that we have to creep on our bellies to repent? Who wants to feel worse about themselves? How can we change when the idea is seeped in such negativity?
I will take their hearts of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 20
What might happen if we were to have hearts of flesh? If we could feel the pain of others, the sadness of others, the despair of others, might we be more willing to forgive, to feel compassion? Might we be more willing to forgive ourselves for our mistakes? To change the way we think of our lives and the lives of others?
Holy One, give us hearts of flesh. Help us care for one another, for ourselves, for those who make mistakes. Help us know that by changing our hearts to flesh, we release the burdens of judgment and anger. Help us live free of regret and open to compassion.